EnlargeHerbert Hoover and

For decades now in our high schools, colleges and universities students have been indoctrinated and brainwashed with the unhistorical falsehood that the Great Depression was caused by a failure of free market capitalism; and that 12 years (1921 to 1933) of conservative Republican presidents ending with the "heartless, hands off, laissez faire" Herbert Hoover  "who refused to intervene in the economy to help the great mass of  impoverished, jobless, starving Americans during the crisis" was its underlying cause; and that he turned a recession in 1929 into a devastating depression-the longest and worst economic crisis in our history. But Hoover the "reactionary, limited government,  tooth and claw, do nothing Darwinian capitalist" is a complete myth. Indeed, this gentle, compassionate humanitarian who helped feed and clothe millions of suffering people in war-torn Europe and once famously said "Capitalists are what's wrong with capitalism" came from the progressive, Teddy Roosevelt wing of the Republican Party, and was anything like Harding and Coolidge-the free market, limited government conservative presidents he served under as Secretary of Commerce. In fact, Calvin Coolidge had such low regard for Hoover that he derisively said of him: “That man has given me unsolicited advice for the past five years...all of it bad”-and thought he'd make a terrible president. And was right.

Woodrow Wilson

Indeed,  as a young, brilliant mining engineer and successful business man Hoover joined the Republican Party. But in the political dispute between Teddy Roosevelt and his successor and ex-friend President Taft (who grew too conservative and pro-business for TR) Hoover in 1912 sided with Roosevelt and supported his Bull Moose Progressive Party and third-party run for the presidency. The anti-business Bull Moose platform called for women's suffrage, universal healthcare, social security, a minimum wage, an eight-hour work week, an inheritance tax, and much, much more.


It was during the great war that Hoover was to become world-famous for the "miraculous" job he did in organizing and distributing food and clothing to millions of hungry and destitute Europeans. This made Hoover an international hero. Though disliked by Winston Churchill the British offered Hoover an executive post in their government and a title to boot if he became a British citizen. However, Hoover the patriot declined the offer saying : "I'll do what I can for you with pleasure; but I'll be damned if I give up my American citizenship."


In 1917 progressive President Woodrow Wilson impressed with Hoover's phenomenal relief work in Europe appointed him to head the newly formed US Food Administration to oversee the feeding of our troops and allies overseas. By this time Hoover was a superstar of the progressive left and was seen as a possible future presidential candidate. In fact, Woodrow Wilson unable to run for a third term due to ill-health and believing there was no one worthier and better suited to succeed him than Hoover urged him to switch parties and run for the Democratic nomination with Franklin Roosevelt (another great Hoover admirer) as his running mate (see). But after considering Wilson's and FDR's offer Hoover graciously declined; and in 1920 he unsuccessfully sought the GOP GOP nomination for the presidency instead. 

But what if Wilson and Roosevelt had gotten their way with Hoover?  What if (what seemed at the time) the progressive dream ticket of Hoover and FDR had materialized and they went on to defeat the supply-side, limited government, austerity conservatives Harding and  Calvin Coolidge in the general election? What then? How would these two progressive luminaries have dealt with the post-war depression (called the "Forgotten Depression,
see") caused by the war and Wilson's crushing tax, spend and regulation policies? Indeed, how would they have dealt with a deflated economy with 11.7% unemployment, a market crash, commercial distress, bank failures, an agricultural crisis and rising deficits and debt? Would they have slashed the top marginal tax rate like Harding and Coolidge did from 77% to 25%,  massively cut spending and lifted the Federal regulatory boot from the neck of business? Would they have done what was necessary to unleash America‘s entraprenurial, innovative and productive energies causing the roaring, soaring, prosperous twenties with millions lifted out of poverty into an expanding middle class? Would that too have been their plan for economic recovery? Not on your life! Not even if they had Andrew Mellon at Treasury-the architect of the Harding/Coolidge miracle.
  Wilson (LR) and Hoover (UL)
Truth is, a Hoover-Roosevelt administration would
have ignored Mellon’s sagacious theory that worked so well that less taxation stimulating economic growth and jobs generates more government revenues.  Indeed, Hoover and FDR would have been in progressive agreement that massive government intervention in the economy was needed to end the Wilson Depression  just as Hoover and FDR did for over a decade after the 1929 market crash. Indeed, a Hoover-Roosevelt administration would have doubled down on Wilson's spending and regulations believing it would bring the economy back to prosperity; and while it is unlikely they would have raised the top marginal tax rates on personal income above Wilson's outrageous 77% (up from 15% in 1916) they would have certainly added punishing taxes on corporate profits and excise taxes on consumer goods, and applied wage and price controls like they foolishly did. And the consequences would have been devastating to the economy as it was in the 1930s. Indeed, just as FDR prolonged Hoover's depression turning it into the Great Depression  by amplifying  his big government tax, spend and regulation policies (Hooverism was the New Deal in embryo) so would the Hoover-FDR administration have prolonged and worsened the Wilson Depression. In other words, the Hoover-FDR Great Depression would have happened a decade sooner.
Good thing for FDR and the nation that the very progressive, popular, world-famous  Hoover joined the Republican Party and not the Democratic; and that he resisted Wilson's overtures to change  parties and run for the presidency in 1920 with FDR as his running mate. For FDR would have been the vice president of a failed administration thus ending his presidential aspirations; and this country would have been deprived of a great and gifted war-time leader (the right man at the right time in history despite his economic blunders) who led us to unconditional and absolute victory in the existential struggle with Nazism, Fascism and Japanese militarism. In sum, Hoover remaining in the GOP made possible the transformation of America into the greatest nation in history: the Superpower of Liberty. God moves in strange way.
The Forgotten Depression



n things. 

 "By nature animals are born with the faculty of sensation, and from sensation memory is produced in some of them, though not in others. And therefore the former are more intelligent and apt at learning than those which cannot remember; those which are incapable of hearing sounds are intelligent though they cannot be taught, e.g. the bee, and any other race of animals that may be like it; and those which besides memory have this sense of hearing can be taught.   other than man live by appearances and memories, and have but little of connected experience; but the human race lives also by art and reasonings. Now from memory experience is produced in men; for the several memories of the same thing produce finally the capacity for a single experience. And experience seems pretty much like science and art, but really science and art come to men through experience; for 'experience made art', as Polus says, 'but inexperience luck.' Now art arises when from many notions gained by experience one universal judgement about a class of objects is produced. For to have a judgement that when Callias was ill of this disease this did him good, and similarly in the case of Socrates and in many individual cases, is a matter of experience; but to judge that it has done good to all persons of a certain constitution, marked off in one class, when they were ill of this disease, e.g. to phlegmatic or bilious people when burning with fevers-this is a matter of art.   

seems in no respect inferior to art, and men of experience succeed even better than those who have theory without experience. (The reason is that experience is knowledge of individuals, art of universals, and actions and productions are all concerned with the individual; for the physician does not cure man, except in an incidental way, but Callias or Socrates or some other called by some such individual name, who happens to be a man. If, then, a man has 


  1. I obviously have disdain for Hoover’s big-government policies, but I also am extremely irritated that – as Jonah Goldberg explained– he allowed the left to create an utterly bogus narrative that the Great Depression was caused by capitalism and free markets.

    Indeed, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity produced a video demonstrating that the statist policies of both Hoover and Roosevelt helped trigger, deepen, and lengthen the economic slump.

      1. Hoover raised federal spending creating a 4% of GDP deficit, he signed off on the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tarriffs (trade taxes) he signed on to the biggest income tax increase in history in 1932. We got the Great Depression. FDR compounded those mistakes and made them worse with federal regulations and more taxes. Does this sound familiar? Obama is Hoover/FDR 2.0. The results are the same.

  2. Who started income tax anyway? It has been my understanding that it was Hoover. But evidently not. I know that many of the rich made their wealth before income tax.
    As I have said before my folks hated Roosevelt.

  3. An original and interesting piece Apollo. Harding and Coolidge let Wilson’s sick economy heal itself helping with passive activity like cutting taxes and spending. Hoover’s and FDR’s government activism would have prevented the healing process like it did in the 1930s. And we have a president of the same retarded mentality.

        1. Krugman’s a coward. He won’t commit himself to a number to play it safe. If he commits to say a $2 trillion stimulus and it fails he’ll be eternally discredited. Shows you what little confidence he has in Keynesianism. After all the failures who can blame him.

  4. FDR doubled down on Hoover’s awful record. And with awful results. We have a better understanding today of how the New Deal caused the downturn to be deeper and longer.

    1. And Obama’s “new New Deal” has given us the worst recovery since the end of WWII, and the worst economy since the Great Depression. Paul Krugman agreeing with conservatives says in his book “End The Depression Now” that Obama’s economy with its jobs crisis (hidden behind a phony 5% UE rate), and demand side consumption crisis (retail sales is a pathetic 29% of GDP), is in reality a depression. And those who deny this depression, says Krugman, suffer from “Depression Denial Syndrome.”

  5. Apollo, thanks for the great post on Hoover and FDR. Never knew that Wilson wanted Hoover to succeed him. That’s amazing.

  6. Apollo rightly pointed out that the crisis of the Great Depression was not a failure of the free market system but of government; and that Hooverism midwifed the New Deal

    1. That “Hoover midwifed the New Deal” was the opinion of FDR advisor Rexford G. Tugwell who said “When it was all over, I once made a list of New Deal ventures begun during Hoover’s years as Secretary of Commerce and then as president. . . . The New Deal owed much to what he had begun.”

  7. Apollo, you are absolutely right on correct.The real analog for the present day repub/Tea Party policies was the response to the 1920 recession by Harding and Coolidge. They cut gov spending and taxes by 50%. The initial crisis of the 1920 recession was just as steep as 1929-1930, and could have easily turned into an early version of the great depression, but the small gov policy response of Harding and Coolidge led to a prompt and lasting recovery, called the roaring 20’s.

    The great depression was not a failure of capitalism, but a crisis created by gov. Bad gov policy turned a normal recession into a lasting depression.

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